As our business has grown over the years, more people have become aware of our products and design processes. And we see questions and concerns related to the themes of our plushes - especially those dealing with mental health, sexuality, and other difficult to approach issues.
So why do we tackle these issues in the first place? What's the motivation?
Our plushes are meant to be tools and guides that help people in their experience with the issues contained in their themes.
I, American McGee, believe in facing your fears and using the difficulties of life as catalysts for positive transformation and personal growth. Instead of running away from the things we fear, we should run towards them and embrace them. Instead of hiding our issues and stigmatizing them, we should drag them out into the light and expose them for all to see. In this way, we rob them of the power to control us.
I believe this because it's core to my own experiences in dealing personally with issues related to childhood trauma, mental health, tragic loss, and other encounters with chaos. And I work through Crowd Design with our audience in the hopes that our processes and products can help others to transform their issues into more desirable outcomes.
And you can see this general theme contained in the games, books, toys, and other products that I've created over the years.
What is Crowd Design?
The general goal in our design process is that we, the team at Mysterious, don't actually *design* the products that you see in our shop. You, the audience, drive the designs based on your personal experiences with the themes and topics that we're exploring. Ideally, once we present an initial sketch for a design concept, it's the Crowd who determine the design direction leading towards a final product.
We engage in this process via our social media platforms:
And we ask that you please NOT send Crowd Design feedback or design ideas in general through any of our other support or contact channels. Crowd Design is an open and transparent community activity.
Got feedback on designs in progress? Or ideas for new products? Share them in the comments on those public posts!
Are we financially supporting causes that help people who deal with these issues?
Yes, we donate proceeds in a number of ways including:
- Hiring artists and designers from marginalized groups.
- Contributing directly to support organizations for marginalized groups.
- Contributing directly to animal rescue organizations.
We make some of these contributions public while others are kept private as to protect identities of at risk individuals.
To support animal rescue, we make a monthly, recurring donation to Against All Odds Rabbit Rescue. AAORR is a rabbit rescue based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
You can check out the bunnies they rescue over on their Instagram Page.
We also make annual donations to The Trevor Project, a hotline that provides 24/7 crisis support services to LGBTQ young people.
Mental Health Issues vs. Other Topics as Design Themes
Plushie Dreadfuls are designed around three common design themes:
- Mental Health related (PTSD, Dysphoria Rabbits as examples)
- Sexuality related (ACE, LGBTQIA+ Rabbits as examples)
- Emotional/Emotions related (Love, Anger Rabbits as examples)
And depending on the theme and type, you may see two different (but similar) NOTES regarding the theme and design:
The first note is the "we take these topics seriously" note and this is generally used with themes that are not mental health related (though an argument could be made that topics like "Love" are also mental health topics).
IMPORTANT NOTE Regarding the design of our Plushie Dreadfuls. We take these topics seriously. That's why our design team only creates plushies related to issues with which they have direct experience. In cases where our team does not have direct experience, we assemble an external team of experts to help guide our creative process. In addition, we use Crowd Design to engage a wide range of voices via platforms like Instagram and Facebook. We gather and respond to feedback from our audience - many of whom have direct experience with the issues we're exploring. And while we strive to represent as many aspects of a particular issue as possible while avoiding stereotypical representations, we hope you understand that plush toys as an artistic medium do limit the full expression of a particular issue to those things that can be crafted in fabric and stitching.
And then we have a similar note used with designs that ARE based on mental health themes and issues:
IMPORTANT NOTE Regarding the design of our mental health-related Plushie Dreadfuls. We take the topics of mental health and mental health awareness seriously. That's why our design team only creates plushies related to mental health issues with which they have direct experience. In cases where our team does not have direct experience, we assemble an external team of experts to help guide our creative process. In addition, we use Crowd Design to engage a wide range of voices via platforms like Instagram and Facebook. We gather and respond to feedback from our audience - many of whom have direct experience with the mental health issues we're exploring. And while we strive to represent as many aspects of a particular mental health issue as possible while avoiding stereotypical symptoms, we hope you understand that plush toys as an artistic medium do limit the full expression of a particular issue to those things that can be crafted in fabric and stitching.
The point is that we take all of these topics seriously. And that representing these themes in plush designs is limited by the materials and methods of plush production.
How do you set your prices? Aren't your plushes kinda expensive?
If you take a moment to search for "rabbit plush toys" on Google, you'll find that prices range from around $20USD to more than $60USD for a single rabbit plush toy. As such, we feel our price, at around $45 for most of our plushes, is in-line with the general market for unique, high-quality, small-batch plush toys.
A few things to note when it comes to what you're paying for (perhaps compared to other plushes on the market):
- We produce unique designs that cannot be found anywhere else. And our Plushie Dreadfuls are exclusively sold via the Mysterious Website.
- We spend a LOT of time on Crowd Design and multiple revisions to each and every design - listening to customer feedback to drive towards a final design before production. This process is not cheap.
- We produce in small batches with a focus on quality.
- Our plushes all come with a uniquely designed Tote Bag included. And often include other unique accessories specific to that particular plush design.
- We are a small business competing against well established major brands (like Disney, etc). And our marketing costs are significant as a result. In today's world, if you don't spend on marketing, you do not survive as a brand. And marketing accounts for the single largest cost to our business on a monthly basis. You always pay for marketing when you buy retail products. But that impact of that marketing cost may be more obvious when you're supporting smaller, up-and-coming brands.
- We pay our team a living wage and provide them humane working conditions. Everyone from our designers and support staff to the sewing teams putting together the final products are taken care of properly - financially, physically, and mentally. Just one example: Having a large, fully climate controlled warehouse where our items are stored, picked, and packed is more expensive than one where workers are forced to labor in extreme heat or cold.
With all this being the case, our expenses are relatively high and our profit margins are relatively normal. We are a small, family run business and we aren't pushing for maximum profits and squeezing our employees to work harder and harder. We like our business because we run it in a comfortable environment at a relaxed pace. And all that goes into the pricing you see when you purchase our products.